Unless you really love chains, there's not a whole of good eating in Aventura. Shopping, yes. Eating, no.
But one mile south of Aventura Mall in North Miami Beach is an intimate, neighborhood trattoria that keeps getting better. Il Migliore, which means "the Best" in Italian, has been in business since 2004. Last October, Craig Silver and Brett Redstone became its new owners.
Friends since childhood, they're now just 30 years old. Silver's a graduate of Florida International University's hospitality management program, and Redstone is a Le Cordon Bleu alumnus.
Prior to the ownership change, Il Migliore had become an early-bird hangout with dated Old World decor and menu ideas. It's still a modest restaurant, but the decorating was toned down with simple gray and silver colors, new lighting and a brick-accent wall that opens into the kitchen. One wall of the restaurant is reserved for projecting black-and-white movies — Westerns or propaganda films from the 1940s and '50s.
The menu isn't radically different — this is an Italian restaurant, after all — but Il Migliore now offers 30 craft beers. I sometimes believe the best Italian food is made by non-Italians, because they don't have memories of nonna telling them how to cook.
If you love bread, you'll love what Silver and Redstone put down. It's delivered fresh every morning from a specialty wholesale baker. It has a crispy crust and a wonderfully spongy crumb, perfect for sopping up Redstone's sauces.
Start with one of the snacks, such as black-eyed-pea hummus ($4) with herbed pita chips. I love the arancini ($4), crispy risotto on the outside and gooey with cheese inside. One night, we split a special grilled squid ($18) served with feta, olives, tomato and cucumber. The kobe meatball ($8) has good flavor, but the kitchen needs to watch that it's heated through before serving.
Redstone makes the fettuccine, tagliatelle and gnocchi. There's truffled fettuccine and wild mushrooms ($14), clams and tagliatelle with guanciale ($16) and excellent gnocchi with more of the guanciale, peas and Parmesan cream sauce ($13). I suggest splitting one of these dishes four ways for a small pasta course, which the kitchen doesn't mind dividing onto four plates.
The bone-in veal Parmesan ($24) may be the best version of this classic dish I've had in years. It's pounded ever so slightly before being lightly breaded and sauteed. It's topped with just enough marinara and mozzarella. And like many entrees here, it's big enough to provide leftovers for lunch. Crispy chicken buttara ($21) is slightly spicy and gets fresh mozzarella along with a basic butter sauce. One night, I ordered a special of grilled trout ($31) with a citrus beurre blanc served with broccolini and potatoes. It was incredible. Mustard-glazed wild salmon ($24) has quickly become a signature dish. Never overcooked, it comes with roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts.
Those crispy sprouts can be ordered as a side dish for $5. Likewise, the Tuscan fries ($6) are loved by many. They're freshly cut in-house and then fried along with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Out of the fryer, they're tossed with a pinch of Parmesan, and the crunchy herbs are dispersed over the fries.
Service at Il Migliore starts with Silver's businesslike welcome and professionalism. You almost don't expect it in a space this small. Likewise, service is consistently efficient, which is what happens when one owner is the kitchen and another is on the floor.
Leave room for dessert. And not just any dessert, but the best tiramisu ($7) I've had in 20 years. I thought tiramisu was over until I had this version. It's served in an old-fashioned, clear glass jar with a wire-bail closure that's opened before being presented. You'll be fighting for the last spoonful.
2576 NE Miami Gardens Drive, North Miami Beach
Hours: Dinner Monday-Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot